A year ago, I’d had some of the most relaxed hitting all week on Friday morning, when all the Legends combined to run a series of drills highlighting the strokes—the volley, the serve, the return of service—and the court positioning that they’d emphasized over the preceding days. Emmo had overseen the serving court, Davo and Newk the volleying, Stockton and Case the return, and on this Friday they were at it again, with roughly 50 of the campers still going strong.
It was by far the toughest morning to play—the temperature had dropped 30 degrees by dawn, to the mid-Fifties—and anyone still in a t-shirt was feeling pretty foolish. I was feeling a bit foolish, too, having booked a noon flight out of San Antonio, which meant I’d be climbing into a ranch van at 9:30, missing what had been a highlight in 2011.
I didn’t love Newk’s timing on the morning’s opening presentation, which I listened to in my jeans and sweatshirt. It was, in effect, how to win tiebreakers. Really? At the end of the week, this comes up? “You’ve got to fight off your subconscious,” the Father of the Legends was saying. The mentally-tough player keeps his doubts, his negative thoughts “from going from the head to below the neck,” and impacting your footwork, your timing, your ability to react. Great stuff, but give it to us at the week’s start, if you want my opinion.
A few other parting thoughts, collected during the first rain of the week, a thunder-and-lightning monsoon that shut down the San Antonio Airport for a couple of hours, and made me thankful I had a non-stop flight, and wasn’t making a tight connection to Madrid, as my sweating seatmate reminded the flight attendant. And reminded her again. And again. Ah, the joys of the United-Continental merger. The thoughts:
- A home run for both planning and execution of the 25th anniversary: new and not-recently seen Legends, a homecoming for many campers, terrific food and post-dinner presentations, an enhanced goodie bag, great airport transfers.
- A high level of media attention, which could provide significant
momentum for the near-future. The trailer for the Tennis Fantasies movie looks to be amusing and very professional. At least two other bloggers—Senior Tennis and Fitness website founder George Wachtel and videographer Sonja Stark—covered the week with several dispatches. A local San Antonio network affiliate had a crew on site for a morning. And author Joel Drucker was on assignment for Tennis magazine. Everywhere you turned, a camera was rolling, a note was being taken, a keyboard being tapped. WTA events have had less coverage.
- The competition itself was remarkably well-balanced, except perhaps at the top. Forty-nine year-old Tobias Svantesson, a former Swedish touring pro who’d been as high as 98th in the world, anchored the Kangaroos. He was no Mongrel. The rest of us, however, pretty much held our own in every match-up. Lots of tiebreakers, very close final team scores. It’s a tribute to the thoughtfulness of the Legends in their drafting, and their placement of players in both the doubles and singles. Watching, say, Marty Riessen and Roy Emerson spend an hour each morning slotting the their into position, discussing strengths and weaknesses … well, it’s inspiring.
- The camaraderie, at the end of the day, remains the essence. For a rookie (see, for example, Joe Lipsick’s commentary to the last blog entry), there can be more than a little anxiety that one is stepping into a closed shop, that there are “in crowds” and outsiders. But, by Friday, that melts away.
- A final shout-out to the great guys I played with this week: Rocket Scientist Greg Arend, MVP Rory Springfield, MVP Steve Franklin, Howard Rogg, Jim Bumgartner (sorry, I mis-spelled your name a couple of days ago), his partner Bill, Peter Godby (sorry I kept calling you Paul), Len Saltzman (hope to see you in Lake Forest), Ed Tunick (hope the knee gets better), practice partners Josh (Rookie of the Year) Hamermesh, Paul Koontz, Jeff (Patriarch of the Canadians) Slater, 2011 partner Rich Flisher, Rob Delman, Brian Gottfried, and Murphy Jensen … You know, in your heart, that was an ace, Murph.
So it’s on to next year. As I write this last paragraph, it’s already Saturday. I’d hoped to connect with Steve Contardi as he drove today from Texas, but no luck. I’ll reach out to him later on, and interview him on this year, and what lies ahead. For now, I’ll savor the memories.